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Hamilton may make climb to Reds starter

Not only does Josh Hamilton appear likely to make the leap to the Reds' major-league roster, he could be in their opening day lineup.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 24, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Not only does Josh Hamilton appear likely to make the leap to the Reds' major-league roster, he could be in their opening day lineup.

If Ken Griffey isn't ready to start the season - and he has not played in an exhibition game as he recovers from a broken left hand - manager Jerry Narron indicated Friday that Hamilton, 25, would be the starting rightfielder.

"I've messed with my lineup a lot about how it would be without Griffey and with Hamilton in the lineup," Narron told the Dayton Ohio Daily News.

Officially, the Reds say they haven't decided whether they will keep the former top Devil Rays prospect whom they acquired in the Rule 5 draft when the Rays didn't put him on their 40-man roster.

But with his stellar all-around play and his .440 average (22-for-50), it would be an upset if Hamilton - who missed most of the past four years with drug problems - didn't make the team, at least as a backup. A final decision will be made next week.

"He's been taking quality at-bats, and he's been solid in all phases of the game," general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "We're happy for him and that he's had early success to build on."

To retain Hamilton as a Rule 5 pick, the Reds must keep him on the 25-man roster (or the major-league disabled list for part of the year). If not, they must put him on waivers - probably by Wednesday - and he likely would be claimed.